Positive Thinking Doesn’t Work (And I Want It To!)

You did your part. You engaged in positive thinking for some time, maybe even used affirmations, just like they told you to (whoever they may have been). And they told you that if you did this, if you positively changed your thinking, that your life would demonstrably get better.

And it hasn’t and you’re frustrated and otherwise upset about it.

So were they, the teachers who claim positive thinking leads to positive life change, wrong? Or maybe the failure wasn’t theirs but was somehow in you. Maybe you did something wrong. Maybe you didn’t show enough perseverance, or faith, or… something. Ultimately you just want to know why.

Why didn’t it work? Especially when you so much wanted it to. Perhaps you didn’t have total faith in the outcome but you did have desire. You did want it to work.

And it didn’t.

Let me offer a word. Many people have been where you are, including me. We, all of us, tried using positive thought to bring about life change — maybe it was more money, or a fulfilling relationship, or a return to good health, or something else. And it didn’t work in the way we wanted and we felt the same sense of deep disappointment you do.

Does this mean positive thinking doesn’t “work”? No. I believe in positive thinking as an overall life improvement tool but it is not a reliable formula for enacting life change.

Let me explain.

You cannot, I believe, engage positive thinking for a set period of time and get an absolute outcome in the external world. It’s not like adding together eggs, flour, and milk: voila, a batter, every time. Manifestation is not predictable in that way.

Does positive thinking bring about particular external circumstances, like an improvement in finances for instance? Yes. Does positive thinking always bring about favorable external life circumstances? No. Does positive thinking bring about favorable external life circumstances within a specific time frame? No.

If you believe you know the exception to this and can demonstrate positive thinking that always brings favorable external circumstances within a reliable time frame then demonstrate this and you will be among the most powerful people in this world, and may ultimately even be worshiped. That is how extraordinary this feat would be.

Positive thinking can and does bring positive external circumstances but it doesn’t do this in an absolutely reliable way. It’s not that you’ve done something wrong or that God isn’t looking favorably upon you or that you don’t deserve change (you certainly do).

The esteemed spiritual teacher Ram Dass is stuck in circumstances that don’t change. He had a stroke and is now partially paralyzed. Do you know what he calls this? Fierce grace. He doesn’t call it unfair or a cruel universe. He calls it grace.


Because his circumstances, his suffering if we want to call it that, gives him the regular opportunity to get to peace within. It is his ascension into Heaven, like the crucifixion.

If you’re looking for absolutely reliable life improvement, something you can set your watch by — so to speak — here it is. End internal resistance to what is. Stop resisting, pushing against, what is. This is not the same as doing nothing. You can act; just do not be in resistance as you are acting.

If you resist the life experience then you will suffer. This is certain. When you stop resisting life your suffering will end.

A quite effective way to end resistance is by observing your internal mental stream: your thoughts and emotions. You needn’t, and shouldn’t, analyze your mental stream. Observing is enough to end the mental engagement, the resistance, nearly all of us engage in (and many people engage in habitually and chronically).

Forget about being flawless in your nonresistance. Ram Dass, a genuine guru, is not flawless in his nonresistance to life. It is an ongoing effort for everyone who chooses to take it on, and I admit to resisting and pushing plenty myself. And based on this I can tell you of the profound difference between resisting and not resisting.

Look closely at yourself, at your mental stream in particular. Are you habitually resisting, or pushing against, life? Life will never, never, conform to all of your wishes and it will, at some point and more than once and more than twice, give you what you do not want.

Try, if you’re open, to ending resistance and see how this compares to thinking positively in the hopes that life will grant your ego desires, and then seeing this strategy fail.

(Learn more about ending resistance to life Here.)